‘When Neanderthals Disappeared From Here, We Became the Sole Inheritors of Our Continent’

For Mosaic Science, Gaia Vince travels to the small British territory of Gibraltar—currently home to an incredibly diverse human population and a place that has been called home to people of all types over the millennia—and analyzes the genetics of ancient humans:

I pause, perched on a rock inside the entrance, in order to consider this—people not so different from myself once sat here, facing the Mediterranean and Africa beyond. Before I arrived in Gibraltar, I used a commercial genome-testing service to analyse my ancestry. From the vial of saliva I sent them, they determined that 1 per cent of my DNA is Neanderthal. I don’t know what health advantages or risks these genes have given me—testing companies are no longer allowed to provide this level of detail—but it is an extraordinary experience to be so close to the intelligent, resourceful people who bequeathed me some of their genes. Sitting in this ancient home, knowing none of them survived to today, is a poignant reminder of how vulnerable we are—it could so easily have been a Neanderthal woman sitting here wondering about her extinct human cousins.

Read the story